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June 4, 2010 > Pancakes build communities and honor veterans

Pancakes build communities and honor veterans

By Mary Dixon
Photos By Mary Dixon

Blue balloons bump and bounce in the breeze against striped parasols shading a dozen tables in a quiet court of Fremont's Irvington district. Small American flags flutter on a fence, scraping spatulas accenting the pleasant hum of conversation as friends and family gather for another Memorial Day pancake breakfast, courtesy of Bob and Glenda Anthon.

These Fremont residents have hosted the neighborhood breakfast since 1996. It is in memory of their son David, who died at the tender age of 12, commemorating the life of a loved one while reaffirming a sense of community in their neighborhood.

"We celebrate with a breakfast because David's most favorite food in the world was pancakes," said Bob, with wife Glenda adding, "And he loved having people over and so do we."

The breakfasts started with just the few residents in the Anthon's cul-de-sac but each year the hosts have invited more neighbors and church congregation members. The Anthons belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the LDS Church, and attend the Irvington Ward.

"Bob and Glenda are like the mom and dad of the neighborhood," said Rockie Perlow, a neighbor, fellow congregation member and third grade teacher at Mattos Elementary. "They've worked hard to bring the community together."

"We celebrate Memorial Day to honor those who've made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy today. It's universally accepted to also honor our loved ones who have passed on," said Bob. "Often, people do not connect in neighborhoods and become solitary islands. We like to knock down those island barriers to make a continent!"

Bob is the Golden Tee golf course manager in Castro Valley. His father, Kenneth S. Anthon and grandfather, John Ross Anthon were World War II and World War I veterans, respectively.

Three of the Anthon's 12 children attended the breakfast this year. According to Jerusha Freeman, the Anthon's third oldest, her parents' tradition is a great one, helping build a sense of community.

"It's marvelous," said Sharon Freeman, Jerusha's mother-in-law. "I can't imagine how much time and effort they put in for this breakfast. The Anthons are a great family, very concerned about service to others."

Glenda spends three days preparing for the breakfast, gathering supplies and cleaning dishes. She also tries to stock up in advance, whenever she spots a sale.

The Fremont couple sees anywhere from 100 to 200 friends and family each year. Warm weather brings more people, according to Bob.

Pancakes and eggs are provided each year, with sausage or bacon when the Anthons can afford it. Guests contribute fruit and other breakfast foods. In previous years, the Anthons said they have had many cultural dishes, including Afghani, Chinese, Indian and Mexican cuisine, which they enjoy.

"We've been here for about 10 years and look forward to it every year," said neighbor Pallavi Chowdhary. "It builds a great sense of community. Life is so fast-paced you don't always see your neighbors. I'd be loathe to move because we have such great neighbors."

"It brings us such an aura of friendship, we feel for months afterwards with the neighbors," said Glenda. "Everybody re-connects at the breakfast and we feel so much closer. That's my favorite part."

The Anthons plan to host these breakfasts as long as they have their health or until they go on a service mission.

"We grow closer every year because of this breakfast," said Miranda Tan, another of the Anthon's neighbors. "We get to know each other and welcome new neighbors and it's nice to know we can all still be happy despite the hard economic times."

"It's a very nice way to remember their son and involve the neighborhood and community in honoring our national heroes, too," concluded Brent Hodson, Fremont Stake President for the LDS Church.

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